Great blue heron
Ardea herodias
 
ITIS Species Code:   174773         NatureServ Element Code:   ABNGA04010
 
Taxa: 
Order: 
Family: 
Aves
Ciconiiformes
Ardeidae
NatureServe Global Rank: 
NatureServe State (NC) Rank: 
 
G5
S3B,S5N
 
Federal Status: 
NC State Status: 
 
---
W2
 
 
PARTNERS IN FLIGHT PRIORITY SCORES:
Southern Blue Ridge:  13 Southern Piedmont:  13 South Atl. Coastal Plain:  12
 
HEXAGONAL KNOWN RANGE:PREDICTED DISTRIBUTION:
 
SUMMARY OF STATEWIDE PREDICTED DISTRIBUTION:
 
Land Unit

US Fish & Wildlife Service
US Forest Service
US National Park Service
US Department of Defense
NC State Parks
NC University System
NC Wildlife Res. Com.
NC Forest Service
NC Div. of Coastal Mgmt.
Local Governments
Non-Governmental Org.
Other Public Lands
Private Lands

GAP Status 1-2
All Protected Lands
Statewide
 
Hectares

41,806.26
3,013.83
22,578.84
6,046.29
6,481.35
2,500.29
23,734.53
1,777.05
2,751.84
805.50
13,699.35
519.66
846,049.95

81,819.36
123,025.14
971,764.74
 
Acres

103,305.50
7,447.33
55,793.52
14,940.71
16,015.76
6,178.35
58,649.29
4,391.19
6,799.94
1,990.43
33,851.82
1,284.11
2,090,634.55

202,180.00
304,001.68
2,401,282.50
% of Dist. on
Prot. Lands

34.0 %
2.4 %
16.5 %
4.9 %
5.3 %
2.0 %
19.2 %
1.4 %
2.2 %
11.1 %
11.1 %
0.2 %
< 0.1 %

66.5 %
-----   
-----   
% of Dist. on
All Lands

4.3 %
0.3 %
2.3 %
0.6 %
0.7 %
0.3 %
2.4 %
0.2 %
0.3 %
< 0.1 %
1.4 %
< 0.1 %
87.1 %

8.4 %
-----   
-----   
 
HABITAT DESCRIPTION:
Common to abundant along the coast (Fussell 1994), uncommon on the barrier islands (Fussell and Lyons 1990) and in the mountains (Simpson 1992).

Can live in a variety of environments with slow-moving water (Kaufman 1996). Locally, almost all nesting is done in wooded freshwater swamps (Fussell 1994) and river bottoms (Potter et al. 1980), but it can also be found on the shores of lakes, bays, ponds, marshes, and streams, as well as in salt water habitats such as tidal flats, sandbars, and oceans (Palmer 1962). Nests in colonies, sometimes in association with other species. Forages in water, on the shore, and in fields (Kaufman 1996).

Will nest up to 130 feet above the ground or water (Ehrlich et al. 1988) in a tree or shrub, or on the ground in the absense of predators (Kaufman 1996), usually near water. Occasionally have also nested on steel transmission line towers (Nicholson 1997).

NATURE SERVE GLOBAL HABITAT COMMENTS:

Freshwater and brackish marshes, along lakes, rivers, bays, lagoons, ocean beaches, mangroves, fields, and meadows. Nests commonly high in trees in swamps and forested areas, less commonly in bushes, or on ground, rock ledges, and coastal cliffs. Often nests with other herons. See Spendelow and Patton (1988) for further details and discussion of geographic variation in nesting sites. Generally nests close to foraging habitat.

 
MODELING DESCRIPTION:
Occupied Landcover Map Units:
Code NameDescription NC Natural Heritage Program Equivalent
3 Tidal Marsh Fresh and brackish tidal marshes, including cord grass, wild rice, sawgrass and needlerush alliances. Brackish Marsh, Interdune pond, Maritime wet grassland
124 Maritime Scrubs and Tidal Shrublands Coastal shrubs including wax-myrtle, swamp rose, alder, yaupon, and greenbriar. Maritime Shrubs, Salt Shrub
375 Hypersaline coastal salt flats Tidal flats within salt marshes, including saltmeadow cordgrass or sea-purslane dominated alliances. Salt Marsh
372 Interdune Herbaceous Wetlands Dune swales with permanently flooded to intermittently exposed hydrology. Species composition depends on salinity and can include cut grass, spike-rush, mosquito fern, and hornwort. Interdune Pond, Maritime Wet Grasslands
75 Tidal Swamp Forest Swamp tupelo dominated forest with or without black tupelo and/or cypress trees. Restricted to the tidal zones in the coastal plain. May have inclusions of coastal red cedar woodlands. Tidal cypress - gum swamp
121 Maritime Pinelands Loblolly forests and woodlands of the outer coastal plain. Estuarine Fringe Loblolly Pine Forest
17 Maritime Forests and Hammocks Maritime forests and woodlands dominated by live or sand laurel oak. Estuarine Fringe forests dominated by loblolly pine. Coastal Fringe Evergreen Forest, Maritime Deciduous Forest, Maritime Deciduous Forest
126 Interdune Wooded Depression Swamp Includes swamps dominated by sweetbay and swampbay or dogwood dominated forests. Maritime Shrub Swamp, Maritime Swamp Forest
380 Coastal Plain Fresh Water Emergent Emergent vegetation in fresh water seepage bogs, ponds and riverbeds of the coastal plain. Includes alliances dominated by sedges, eelgrass, as well as cane found in unforested cane-brakes. Small Depression Pond, Sandhill Seep, Floodplain Pool, Unforested Floodplain Canebrake, Riverscour Prairies, Vernal Pools
173 Coastal Plain Riverbank Shrubs Shrub dominated riverbanks, commonly dominated by willows and/or alders. Sand and Mud Bar
50 Coastal Plain Mixed Bottomland Forests Includes forests dominated by a variety of hardwood species, including sweetgum, cottonwood, red maple. Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwood (in part), Coastal Plain Levee Forest
49 Coastal Plain Oak Bottomland Forest Bottomland forests dominated by deciduous oak alliances. Oaks represented can include swamp chestnut, cherrybark, willow, and/or overcup oak. Inclusions of loblolly pine temporarily flooded forests occur in patches. Hydrology is temporarily to seasonally flooded. Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwoods (in part) blackwater subtype, brownwater subtype
30 Cypress-Gum Floodplain Forests Swamps dominated by black or swamp tupelo with or without Taxodium. Seasonally to semi-permanently flooded hydrology. Cypress-Gum Swamps
78 Pond-Cypress - Gum Swamps, Savannas and Lakeshores Cypress dominated swamps and lakeshores. Can include bays dominated by pond cypress or shorelines of coastal plain lakes with a narrow band of cypress. Non-riverine Swamp Forest, Natural Lakeshores (in part)
385 Oak Bottomland Forest and Swamp Forest The swamp chestnut oak, cherrybark oak, shumard oak and sweetgum alliance is one representative. Other alliances are dominated by water, willow, and overcup oaks. Swamp forests can be dominated by sweetgum, red maple, and black gum being dominant. Loblolly can occur in combination with sweetgum and red maple, or with tulip poplar. Includes saturated and semi- to permanently flooded forests in the mountains. Piedmont/Mountain Bottomland Forest, Piedmont/Mountain Swamp Forest
238 Piedmont/Mountain Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Seasonally to permanently flooded areas with aquatic vegetation. Waterlily, pondweed, hydrilla smartweed are a few of the species that can occur. Piedmont/Mountain Semipermanent Impoundment (in part)
239 Piedmont/Mountain Emergent Vegetation Emergent vegetation of all wetland hydrologies. Sites would commonly support species such as tussock sedge, rushs, and cattail alliances. Rocky Bar and Shore (in part)
267 Riverbank Shrublands Riverside shrubs with temporarily flooded hydrologies. Found in the both the Mountains and Piedmont. Containing dominants such as smooth alder and a Carolina or black willows. Sand and Mud Bar
269 Floodplain Wet Shrublands Saturated shrublands of the Piedmont, includes buttonbush, swamp-loosestrife, decodon and alders. Piedmont/mountain Semipermanent Impoundment
384 Piedmont/Mountain Mixed Bottomland Hardwood Forests Includes temporarily to seasonally forests dominated by hardwood species. Hardwoods include sweetgum, red maple, sycamore which co-occur in a mosaic of bottomland and levee positions. Includes alluvial hardwood forests in the mountains. Hemlock and white pine may occur as inclusions, but are generally mapped separately. Piedmont/Mountain Alluvial Forest, Piedmont/Mountain Levee Forest
205 Agricultural Pasture/Hay and Natural Herbaceous Farm fields used for pasture grass or hay production, as well as old fields dominated by native and exotic grasses. No equivalent
202 Residential Urban Includes vegetation interspersed in residential areas. Includes lawns, mixed species woodlots, and horticultural shrubs. Vegetation accounts for between 20 - 70% of the cover. No equivalent
8 Open water Open water without aquatic vegetation. No equivalent
View Entire Landcover Legend
 
Additional Spatial Constraints:
Exclude all area outside of known range.
Exclude all land greater than 50 meters from an open water feature.
Exclude all land greater than 50 meters from wet vegetation.
Exclude all water greater than 50 meters from land.
Exclude salt water habitats.
 
CITATIONS:
DeMauro, M. M. 1993. Colonial nesting bird responses to visitor use at Lake Renwick heron rookery, Illinois. Natural Areas Journal 13:4-9.

Gerrard, J. M., et al. 1993. Water-bird population changes in 1976-1990 on Besnard Lake, Saskatchewan:increases in loons, gulls, and pelicans. Can. J. Zool. 71:1681-1686.

McNeil, R., R. Benoit, and J.-L. Desgranges. 1993. Daytime and nighttime activity at a breeding colony of great blue herons in a nontidal environment. Can. J. Zoool. 71:1075-1078.

Fleury, B. E., and T. W. Sherry. 1995. Long-term population trends of colonial wading birds in the southern United States:the impact of crayfish aquaculture on Louisiana populations. Auk 112:613-632.

Ehrlich, P.R., D.S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1992. Birds in jeopardy:the imperiled and extinct birds of the United States and Canada, including Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. 259 pp.

Simpson MB Jr. 1992. Birds of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press.

Fussell, J. III and M. Lyons. 1990. Birds of the Outer Banks [pamphlet]. Eastern National Parks and Monument Association Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society.

Vos, D. K. 1984. Response of breeding great blue herons tohuman disturbance in northcentral Colorado. M.S. thesis, Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins.

Fussell, J.O. III. 1994. A birderís guide to coastal North Carolina. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press.

Kaufman K. 1996. Lives of North American Birds. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Nicholson CP. 1997. Atlas of the breeding birds of Tennessee. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.

Palmer, R. S. (editor). 1962. Handbook of North American birds. Vol. 1. Loons through flamingos. Yale University Press, New Haven. 567 pp.

Payne, R. B., and C. J. Risley. 1976. Systematics and evolutionary relationships among the herons (Ardeidae). Univ. Michigan Mus. Zool., Misc. Publ. No. 150. 115 pp.

Potter, E. F., J. F. Parnell, and R. P. Teulings. 1980. Birds of the Carolinas. Univ. North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill. 408 pp.

Terres, J.K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU), Committee on Classification and Nomenclature. 1983. Check-list of North American Birds. Sixth Edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas.

Raffaele, H.A. 1983. A guide to the birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Fondo Educativo Interamericano, San Juan, Puerto Rico. 255 pp.

Hilty, S.L., and W.L. Brown. 1986. A guide to the birds of Colombia. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. 836 pp.

Pratt, H.D., P.L. Bruner, and D.G. Berrett. 1987. A field guide to the birds of Hawaii and the tropical Pacific. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. 409 pp. + 45 plates.

Ehrlich, P.R., D.S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder's handbook:a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Shuster, Inc., New York. xxx + 785 pp.

Root, T. 1988. Atlas of wintering North American birds:An analysis of Christmas Bird Count data. University of Chicago Press. 336 pp.

Spendelow, J.A., and S.R. Patton. 1988. National atlas of coastal waterbird colonies in the contiguous United States:1976-1982. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Report 88(5). x + 326 pp.

Powell, G. V. N. 1987. Habitat use by wading birds in a subtropical estuary:implications of hydrography. Auk 104:740-749.

Ridgely, R. S., and J. A. Gwynne, Jr. 1989. A guide to the birds of Panama with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Second edition. Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, New Jersey. 534 pp.

Stiles, F.G., and A.F. Skutch. 1989. A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. Comstock Publ. Associates, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York. 511 pp.

Gibbs, J. P. 1991. Spatial relationships between nesting colonies and foraging areas of great blue herons. Auk 108:764-770.

Allen, H. 1991. The great blue heron. NorthWord Press, Inc. 175 pp.

10 March 2005
 
This data was compiled and/or developed by the North Carolina GAP Analysis Project.

For more information please contact them at:
NC-GAP Analysis Project
Dept. of Zoology, NCSU
Campus Box 7617
Raleigh, NC 27695-7617
(919) 513-2853
www.basic.ncsu.edu/ncgap